Catching a fish is half the fun—there’s also the indulgence part. Setting your sights on table fare brings the course of action full-circle. The hunt is complete. You’ve followed the rules. Now to the spoils. If your M.O. is putting some of the finest fish on a plate to devour, then there may be no finer place on Earth to indulge your hunter-gatherer instincts than right here in our waters.
Some anglers, like me, are strictly catch and release. For other anglers, the lust is to bring to their tables a prize to prove their work—plates of grilled or sautéed filets, to battered and deep-fried nuggets, to seasoned and blackened or baked mouth watering culinary masterpieces. If prepared properly, Florida fish are the finest on earth. Inshore and offshore angling can fill a freezer by days on end.
First, and seasonally protected, is the snook. Be mindful of the rules and dates of when you’re allowed to harvest certain species of fish. Also, be cognizant of preparation faux pas like cooking with the skin on. That will make some filets inedible. But above all, the snook is the best tasting in my opinion. Next, and in no certain order, cobia and dolphin (mahi-mahi).
But you can’t talk table fare and not include snapper, grouper, yellow and blackfin tunas, Pompano, redfish and pan-fried freshwater fish. For me, the smaller end of the slot size, the tastier the fish. Some of the larger fish can tend to be a bit wormy, especially sea trout. But even the oily, fatty fish can be delicious if prepared properly. Pan-seared filets in butter and thinly sliced garlic with a hint of white wine can turn an unappealing filet into a gourmet presentation.
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